How to set up and use a custom short domain for WordPress
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As the more astute amongst you may have already noticed, we’ve recently begun using a new short domain (wngwp.es) in our tweets. What is a short domain? Well, it’s really just a second (shorter) domain name that can be used instead of your original domain name. Why would anybody want to do that? Well, primarily because using a shortened domain name allows you to save space in twitter (or anywhere else you care to use it) without having to revert to boring generic auto-generated default short URLs, for an extra blast of branding (think: ‘nyti.ms’ (New York Times)) and because having your own custom short domain just looks neat! So let’s get cracking:
Step 1. Enter Bit.ly!
Head on over to Bit.ly and sign up for a free account. Once that’s done, log in and click on “ahoy, ‘yourname'” (top right) and then ‘SETTINGS’. Choose the ‘ADVANCED’ tab and then either ‘Business’ or ‘Personal’ (for the sake of simplicity, we’ll cover ‘Personal’ here). Not got a short domain yet? Move on to step 2…
Step 2. Choose (and then buy) your short domain
So what short domain to choose? The convention seems to be to choose a short domain that a) looks good and b) is obviously derived from the site’s original domain name. Examples include ‘nyti.ms’ (New York Times), ‘tcrn.ch’ (Tech Crunch), ‘bsa.ly’ (BuySellAds) and, ahem, ‘wngwp.es’ (guess who!). If you’re stuck for ideas (or even if you’re not) check out domai.nr (for a complete list of top-level domains check out this Wikipedia page). Once you’ve decided on one, the next step is to buy it. We bought ours from GoDaddy (mainly because we’re guessing a lot of readers will already be familiar with GoDaddy and we knew we’d be writing a post on how to set things up when we bought ours) – but rather than simply copy us, buy your domain from whichever domain registrar you feel the most comfortable with (because you’ll need to add a custom DNS record to it if you follow the procedure outlined here – don’t panic: more on this DNS bit next). Once you’ve got your new short domain, you’ll then be in a position to head on back to that ‘Advanced’ tab mentioned in step 1 and tell Bit.ly all about it.
Step 3. Set up a custom DNS record to point to Bit.ly
The procedure for this will be a little different depending on your registrar, however, assuming you’ve chosen GoDaddy (as we did above), then log in to your GoDaddy account, select ‘Domains’ and ‘Launch’ your new short domain. Then choose the ‘DNS Zone File’ tab, followed by ‘edit’. You’ll then be shown a new window within which you’ll be able to edit the existing ‘A (Host)’ record for your site, changing the IP address to 220.127.116.11 (Bit.ly’s IP address).
For more detailed information on this step (and on how to set it up if you’ve chosen to use a subdomain rather than a top-level domain for your short domain), check out Bit.ly’s ‘How do I set up a custom short domain‘ page. Note that it can take up to 48 hours for domain changes to propagate, so you may have to wait a while for your changes to take effect. Once verified, you’ll then be able to select your new short domain from the drop down menu next to ‘Default short domain for your bitmarks’, under ‘Short Domain’, and to also choose a ‘Custom Short Domain Root Redirect’ (you’ll probably want to enter your site’s regular domain name) in case anybody visits your custom short domain directly (both under the same ‘ADVANCED’ tab as before).
Step 4. Bit.ly + WordPress = WP Bit.ly
So how do you use your new custom short domain name with WordPress? Easy – with a handy plugin (called WP Bit.ly) that lets you quickly and easily access custom shortlinks (created using your chosen short domain) via a new menu item (created by the WP Bit.ly) on the WordPress toolbar.
Step 5. Get tweeting with it!
But wait! Not so fast, because you’ll still need to go through all the WP Bit.ly plugin settings to ensure everything is configured correctly (remembering to enter your Bit.ly username and Bit.ly API key etc) and adjust a few settings to match your own personal requirements (choosing what kind of posts should short links be generated for, etc) AND even after setting everything up, you may still have to wait a while for those darn DNS changes to take effect (in our case it took about a day). Good luck!